Iowa City, IA (SportsNetwork.com) - A pair of one-loss teams are set to do battle on Tuesday night as part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, as the 23rd- ranked Iowa Hawkeyes welcome the Notre Dame Fighting Irish to Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Notre Dame began the season inside the Top-25, but was promptly ousted from the ranks following a Nov. 17 home loss to Indiana State (83-70). Since that defeat, however, the Irish have improve to 5-1 with three straight wins, most recently dismissing Cornell (101-67) on Sunday to close out a season-opening, six-game homestand.
Iowa made a splash on the national scene by opening the season with seven straight victories, including an outstanding run to the Battle 4 Atlantis championship game after wins over Xavier (77-74) and Texas El-Paso (89-53) in the early rounds. The Hawkeyes battled Villanova wire-to-wire in Saturday's title bout, but ultimately fell on the wrong end of an 88-83 overtime decision for their first loss of the campaign.
Notre Dame leads the all-time series with Iowa, 8-5, although the teams haven't met since November of 1990 when the Irish won at home, 77-68.
The Irish overwhelmed Cornell in just about every aspect of the game earlier in the week, as they outshot the Big Red from the field, 54.3 percent to 44.1 percent, while owning convincing advantages in the rebounding (43-27) and turnover (10-5) battles. Six players scored in double figures in the triumph, led by 20 from Jerian Grant, who was 8-of-10 from the floor. Eric Atkins tallied 19 points, six rebounds and six assists while draining three of the team's 12 3-pointers. Pat Connaughton (18 points, 10 rebounds, five assists) also stuffed the stat sheet, while Garrick Sherman (12 points), Demetrius Jackson (11 points) and Zach Auguste (10 points, nine rebounds) rounded out the balanced effort. It's lone setback aside, Notre Dame has been dominant this season, shooting greater than 50 percent from the field for 83.7 points per game for a +18.7 scoring margin. Grant is an elite scoring option with 19.5 points per game, and he and Atkins (14.0 ppg) combine to hand out 10.7 assists per game. Sherman (11.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg) and Connaughton (11.3 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 3.2 apg) are mainstays in the UND frontcourt.
The Hawkeyes appeared to have the Battle 4 Atlantis championship game well in hand, leading by as many as 15 in the second half, but Villanova got hot late to force overtime and took the title in the extra session. The Hawkeyes shot less than 38 percent from the field in the second stanza, as their advantage slipped away. Roy Devyn Marble scored 24 points, but was only 8-of-23 from the floor and 6-of-12 at the foul line. He had a chance to give his team the lead in the final minute of regulation at the stripe but only hit 1-of-2 to tie the game. Zach McCabe provided a spark off the bench with 14 points and Mike Gesell chipped in with 10 points before fouling out. On the season, Iowa shoots 45.7 percent from the field for 89.0 points per game, but equally impressive has been its play at the defensive end, as it holds opponents to just 34 percent shooting and 61.0 points per outing. Marble scores 16.8 points per game to lead the way, although his field goal efficiency is less than 40 percent. Aaron White (13.0 ppg, 6.4 rpg), on the other hand, is shooting 63 percent from the floor, while eight others net between 4.9 and 9.8 points per outing.